Mark D’Angelo is the director of instrumental music at Roosevelt High School (RHS) in Wyandotte, MI. He recently led two RHS ensembles in performances at the DIA during Wyandotte’s InsideOut community free day. In this post, D’Angelo shares his experience of being involved in InsideOut as a community member.
On Sunday, April 29, residents of Wyandotte received free admission to the DIA as part of their participation in the InsideOut program. It was a special privilege to have several members of the RHS jazz and percussion programs perform just outside the entrance to the museum, welcoming guests and community residents. The RHS Jazz Ensemble is a select group of high school music students that enjoys performing big band swing music from the 1930s and ’40s along with big band arrangements of today’s more popular music. It is neat to see how today’s students relate to this music and how much they enjoy performing it in front of various audiences.
For their DIA performance, the band performed a 45-minute set featuring many student soloists and a variety of styles. In addition to the jazz ensemble, we featured members of a unique RHS percussion ensemble: the Wyandotte African Drum & Dance Ensemble. Having a passion for West African traditional music and culture, I created this ensemble to provide opportunities for students to experience West African culture through music and dance. Our group’s performance featured social music from Ghana, Togo, Benin, and the Ivory Coast.
How it all started
When I met Scott Boberg, head of interpretive programs at the DIA, at the Detroit International Jazz Festival last summer, we discussed the possibility of my music ensembles performing at the DIA. At the time, I was unsure of what ensembles I would bring to perform. Wyandotte RHS is one of the only school districts in Southeastern Michigan that has a string orchestra program, and I thought that performing classical music would be a good fit for the DIA. Others suggested to me that the 117-member marching band, the only band from Michigan that marched in the 2009 inaugural parade for President Obama, should line the steps of the DIA that day. It was eventually decided that a joint performance between the RHS Jazz Ensemble and the Wyandotte African Drum & Dance Ensemble would welcome residents on their InsideOut free day.
More about InsideOut in Wyandotte
Just weeks prior, Natalie Rankine, director of the Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority, and I discussed the many other ways that the RHS music department could help support InsideOut in the Wyandotte community. We were both equally excited about all the possibilities, and Natalie went on to tell me about all the events Wyandotte had planned around the various works of art displayed in the community.
We agreed to prepare a special “fife & drum” performance for the Wyandotte InsideOut kickoff event held at the Downriver Council of the Arts and the Biddle Gallery, which were two of the sites chosen to display InsideOut reproductions (Eanger Irving Couse’s Chief Shoppenegons and Thomas Couture’s Drummer Boy, respectively). Despite the rainy weather, RHS band students performed at both sites.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to thank the Wyandotte community for showing their support not only to InsideOut but to other special community arts projects like it, as well as to the Wyandotte music program. The Wyandotte community is a special place, full of special people. The arts are very much alive in Wyandotte, and projects such as this demonstrate the community’s appreciation for all types of arts.